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Can elementary students be truly independent these days?

Outside of every elementary classroom in LAUSD, the teachers must post a schedule. Every minute of the day is covered. The schedule must coincide exactly with that of every other class on the grade level. The only exceptions are when a class visits the library, a lab or the music teacher.

There is no time for teachable moments.

When teachers had freedom and independence and the whole world was not focused on test preparation and tests scores, every year I produced a class of independent, self-sufficient students.

I would start out the morning with a Language Arts lesson. When the lesson was complete, the students would work independently on practicing the skill just taught, while I circulated to assist them.

When they finished their Language Arts work and I had checked it, they would make any needed corrections then look on the front board for the Math assignment of the day, which would be on a skill previously taught.

When their Math was completed and checked, they again looked on the board to see whether they were to have learning centers or computers that day. The learning centers and computers provided skills practice, enrichment and challenge, some art projects, and self esteem projects. They tracked their own center and computer work progress.

When the Math skill to be taught was a new one, I taught it first and then the students did their Language Arts.

Just before recess we would stop and go to the rug for thinking games and activities, reading poetry to each other, and discussions.

The students returned on their own (I never picked them up on the playground) after recess and then come right to the rug where we would read and discuss the story of the day. Several years, children’s books by authors such as Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were our readers. When we finished the day’s reading, the students would return to their desks to write and illustrate what they had just read.

The afternoon was for Science, Health, Social Studies, Environmental Education, Physical Education, and Art on Fridays.

Art was for Art sake as they completed a wide variety of projects.

When the afternoon unit was a major one like Space, Dinosaurs or Los Angeles History, the classroom would be filled with that subject. There would be pictures—small and poster size—books, and many items that the children could examine and work with.

I produced a class of independent, self-sufficient students who were motivated to do their best and to move to the next activities on their own. There was plenty of time for cooperative learning, thinking activities, enrichment and challenge, and teachable moments.

Unlike today, we always had time to review and the master the skills.

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